After rereading this, I’m going to start it with a disclaimer. Why? Because i come across as kinda douchey in this, snarking on a woman’s account of visiting her lover’s grave. I actually was very moved by this when I first read the book.
Then I read the other 99% of it AND her website, and I suddenly didn’t feel so bad. Because bitch be crazy.
I don’t doubt that PKM visited Morrison’s grave or that she was genuinely upset and grieved, but the theatrics of almost everything she claims to have done and said in the book really, really are over the top. They feel like a novel, not an account of real life. And so does this scene. So if you think I’ve gone too far, just tell me in the comments.
Start with the end, and see where you can go from there…
No, what it actually means is that Patricia Kennealy-Morrison begins her story of her affair with Jim Morrison by talking about… after he died. Wow, what a bummer, but it makes for a very cinematic experience.
In fact… it reminds me of the first scene of the Doors movie, which features Morrison at the END of his career before shooting back to his (relatively) innocent youth.
The truth of the graves.
What a time trying to get to him out front, ripped on jet lag, grief and too many downers; four years out of college and trying to wrap my tongue around eight years of French again, after an engine fire on the plane over, a bad cab ride from Orly and now a hotel clerk who loftily informs me there is no reservation in either of my names.
Okay. Was that an attempt at beat poetry? Because there don’t seem to be any subjects in that long, run-on sentence.
I think Kennealy is trying to communicate that she had a rough, wild time getting to France and dealing with all the problems with getting into her hotel. Also, what “either” names? Was she going by “Kennealy-Morrison” even then?
It is my first time overseas, and I have been in Paris for less than one hour.
“And already, I am experiencing Paris Syndrome. Where are the baguettes?!”
Quick sum-up: she manages to get a teeny hotel room, and changes from black clothing into more black clothing. Then she has a cabbie take her straight over to the Père-Lachaise graveyard. Fun facts: Jim Morrison’s neighbors there include Balzac, Wilde, Proust, Marceau, Moliere and many other well known figures, and the ashes of Stiv Bators were sprinkled on top of Morrison’s grave. It’s too bad that all those people are dead, because they could have the AWESOMEST conversations.
There are high walls of buff-colored stone around the ancient graveyard of Père-Lachaise; to keep people out or keep people in?
…. is Kennealy suggesting that Père-Lachaise has zombies? Or vampires? Because that… would be kind of cool.
“Je cherche le tombeau de Morrison — James Douglas Morrison?”
“He’s a rock star and I TOTALLY married him even if it isn’t legal. Lead the way, commoner!”
It takes a while to sort out; apparently he has been listed in the records as Douglas James, not James Douglas. Still, how many Morrisons can there be?
Enough to confuse the dude at the graveyard, apparently. Especially since I bet most people coming there don’t need directions to a specific grave.
“Américain? Poète? Décédé le trois juillet?”
Yes, confuse the man further by referring to him as a poet. I’m sure the French knew him best for his poetry and not his rock’n’roll. Now he’ll probably think there are TWO James Douglas Morrisons buried there.
Whatever! Who cares! Just tell me where it is! Before I rip your throat out!
Some people handle grief with crying, some handle it with quiet dignity…. and some act like slasher villains.
He gets the message — something in my eyes, perhaps, that does not require translation,
“Madame would like some Xanax?”
or maybe it is just the way the air has begun to glow and vibrate in my immediate vicinity —
… does she actually think that she has a visible, intimidating aura?! Then again, this woman apparently thinks that vampires and/or zombies roam the Père-Lachaise graveyard, so who knows what she thinks about herself.
So the guy kindly draws a map for her showing where Morrison’s grave is, despite this woman practically frothing at the mouth and waving knives at him. Presumably the dude has dealt with worse when it comes to grieving people. And having a map, Kennealy goes out into the graveyard and does her best impression of Bella Swan.
Outside in the shining summer morning, I look around and I see nothing of what is before me;
All I see is an endless sea of bubbles!
in all my life I have never felt, never imagined I could feel, so utterly alone.
I can’t believe they cancelled my favorite soap!
So she starts shivering… and promptly takes off her shoes. Yes, she takes off her shoes in a graveyard where all sorts of people come, and which could have ANYTHING on the ground. Broken glass, syringes, anything. I know she’s supposed to be devastated, but… this woman lives in NEW YORK CITY.
Barefoot bereaved all in widow black; well, maybe, though I did not plan it.
… she didn’t plan to bring all black clothes and deliberately dress in black before going to see his grave? That seems unlikely.
(I am even wearing a long black veil; not so much that I do not wish the casual or curious to see me — though I don’t — as I do not wish to have to see them.)
- Why would the “casual or curious” bother looking at her? She ain’t the Poe Toaster. She’s one of the many short-term affairs of an American rock star.
- And she wasn’t one of the famous ones, like Nico, Grace Slick or the like. She was a journalist for a small-scale magazine.
- And if you’re trying to not attract attention, a long black veil is a bad way to go.
- Also, if you’re wearing a veil thick enough to keep from seeing other people…. good luck navigating a graveyard.
- LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME! I’M GRIEVING! I’m grieving more than anyone else! I’m wearing black, barefoot and wearing a VEIL! PLEASE NOTICE ME!
But all at once it seems a thing I must do, walk barefoot to his grave; and I would do it were it deep midwinter and the cobblestones under snow. Something necessary, something instinctive:
I’m having traumatic flashbacks to New Moon and Bella’s endless melodrama. Although if Edward were an asshole rock star instead of an asshole vampire, it would have been a lot more awesome.
Instinct has brought me here in the first place, veiled me in black and set me shoeless on the stones, and instinct will take me where I want to be in the end.
- And that is a small farm in southern Indiana.
- So… she’s saying that INSTINCT made her fly across the Atlantic, dress herself in black, put on a veil, and take off her shoes? I think that you have to do a little more than be guided by instinct for that.
- Either that, or she doesn’t know what “instinct” means.
- Also, good luck trying to navigate a graveyard on “instinct.” If you could do that, you wouldn’t need a map. Which she has.
And since “instinct” is a lousy guide, she immediately goes rambling through the place without her shoes, and without a clue where she’s going. We also find out that she took more than 100 mg of Valium during her flight… which, in case you’re wondering, is over ten times the maximum oral dose. And for some reason, she thinks it’s surprising and mystical that she feels weird and slow-moving.
I remember from somewhere that there are a great number of the renowned buried here: Chopin, Balzac, Edith Piaf, dear Oscar Wilde.
There are other arty smart people here! Like ME.
Suddenly I am blinded by tears and frustration. Ah God, where is he? Why can’t I find him? All you people, tell me where your new friend is; you tell me, who can tell me.
Okay, you all might think I’m a total douche for making fun of this sort of stuff. And normally I would not snark stuff based on actual loss.
But one of Strange Days‘ biggest problems is that none of it seems REAL. It feels like a very melodramatic novel where everything has significance and everything is wild, romantic and infused with DESTINY. It’s sort of like Twilight if Twilight were supposedly autobiographical (I say “supposedly” because there’s a lot of contention over the stuff in this autobiography), and was more about rock’n’roll than Mormon vampires.
I’ve read a lot of rock autobiographies, and when someone really experiences a loss in those books, you FEEL it. They don’t tart it up with dramatics like veils, bare feet and calling out to dead people. Things like Bebe Buell describing the loss of Elvis Costello are wrenchingly sad, but they don’t include over-the-top melodrama like you would find in a novel. She didn’t write about bad symbolism and theatrical melodrama.
Life isn’t like that. Emotional intensity exists, but rarely, if ever, with the kind of drama and romance that you can find in books.
So it’s often hard to take Strange Days seriously because it’s SO melodramatic, SO theatrical, SO exaggerated and SO bombastically emotional that it feels more like a bad roman-a-clef novel based on Kennealy’s life than any kind of real memoir. In fact, she admits at one point that this WAS partly based on a roman-a-clef.
And because Strange Days does not take place in the same world as that of us mortals, the ghosts of Wilde, Piaf, Chopin and Balzac mystically guide her to Morrison. No, I’m not kidding: And they must hear and take pity on me,for they send me by a little lane I have not noticed before though I must have passed it half a dozen times. And then it is as if a psychic homing device suddenly clears and switches on, and I walk forward straight to him without a falter or misstep,
See? No funnin’. She actually credits the ghosts of dead artistes with guiding her to Jim Morrison…. ON REQUEST. Somehow I imagine Wilde saying something funny and dismissive about her behavior.
There’s a moment of confusion where she doesn’t seem to know where the grave is, and grapples with her emotions, including denial. This is actually a fairly moving scene… until she tries to inject her own confusing poetry into it rather than just describing her emotions.
But now it is here before me, the end of the trip: I approach with hushed carefulness, these last few feet of all our distances.
Last few feet of WHAT? What? What does that mean?
Glassy uncertainty, so fragile; catsoft, as if too harsh a step would set off unendurable atrocity; silent and held in hard, like a skittish racehorse, like a surgeon drawing near some unimaginable wound.
… someone please tell Ms. Kennealy to lay off on the mediocre poetry. It’s very confusing when you inject it into regular prose.
I unpin the black veil so that it hurries down over my face, and I go to my knees upon that barrier: sand and grit and gray grainy dry earth unlike any soil I have ever seen. Bonedirt.
… you see what I mean about the melodramas? I almost feel bad about snarking this… but it’s just so completely over-the-top. I mean, she even sinks to her knees on the grave! She’s wearing a VEIL.
No, I have never seen this earth with any sight; I have never dreamed it, and I have always known it.
… I think I need to stop mentioning all the comments she makes that are incredibly dramatic and make no sense.
Well, the description of the grave is very, very sad – Kennealy describes it as being mostly rocks and dirt, but someone has put shells and flowers on it to make it prettier, and even made a crude cross with Morrison’s name on it. The only problem is the way she tries to describe her Bella Swan pain.
Amputation in one’s karma hurts just as much, removes just as surely; astral amputation, throb of dull karmic loss.
- Stop with the attempts at being poetic. You aren’t good at it.
- Also: karma. I’m pretty sure that “karma” is not synonymous with “soul” or however Kennealy is using it.
- Karma, to the best of my knowledge, only refers to a sort of spiritual payback – good or bad – for whatever you’ve done in the past. You cannot amputate that. Nor can you lose it.
It never once enters my mind through all this that those who care about me are genuinely upset about this totally unswervable departure.
… uh, why? Did they not want her to go to Paris?
The only thing for it is to go; and soon as I am sure that those who left him here are safely back in L.A., I do.
So her grief was so immediate, instinctive and overwhelming… that she first made sure that Courson and the others were in the US before making her plans?
So she kneels a second time next to the grave… did she even get up? Whatever. Anyway, this is a rather sad scene, except… again… SO DRAMATIC.
How can he be there, under all that weight of rocks and roses, all that cover of earth and stone? How can I go away and leave him there, how get up and walk away from him, just leave him alone in the dark and the cold and the rain and the night, with cats running over his grave, all alone under the wet plastered leaves?
Ferfuksake, this is like a big emo medley of “I Will Remember You,” “My Immortal” and “My Heart Will Go On”.
It is the biggest thing that has ever happened to me, or that ever can happen, to me or to anyone: the death of the beloved.
I know, because Bella Swan told me so!
And I’m pretty sure there are a lot of people out there who have lost more than just one person.
It doesn’t get any worse than this, whether you face it when you are eighty and have had a lifetime together, or when you are a few months past your twenty-fifth birthday and have had a rather unorthodox two years.
Um, how would you know? Not to nitpick… but PKM hasn’t made it to eighty yet, and she didn’t have a lifetime together with Morrison – she had a couple weeks spread out over a couple years. How can she say it’s the same if she hasn’t experienced both of those scenarios?
Still, it is only a matter of time and space, and hardly permanent; no matter what else I have changed my mind about over the years, I sure as hell still believe that. There is no way not to, not now; and even when I cannot believe — in my despair, in the dark mists of grief and pain and anger — even then I still know that it is true, and still I try to believe.
- … I don’t understand what she’s saying.
- Death does indeed tend to be permanent. Even if you believe in reincarnation, the person as they were…. is gone.
- So she can’t believe in something, but knows it to be true even though she can’t “know” because it’s supernatural and therefore incapable of being proven “fact”… that’s belief, lady.
So she spends all day kneeling at the graveside, and eventually some young French guy comes up to her.
Memory, or something higher, kicks in; endurance, or something greater, armors my pain. When I begin to speak, it seems more telepathy than speech: I say things in French I can barely say in English, express concepts I never learned in French 101.
“I dance with gerbils and need many cheeses. Would you hit me with the pen of your aunt?”
“… I will go get a translator.”
“Êtes-vous sa femme?” he asks diffidently.
That depends on who you ask. Ask her, the answer is yes; ask anyone else who knew Jim, and the answer is probably, “Who?”
I answer in a steady voice that I am the mother of his dead child,
Yes, the ONLY child that a notorious womanizing rock star ever produced.
the only woman with whom he ever exchanged wedding vows of any sort (“malgré la loi”), indeed I am his wife; besides, in French, ‘sa femme’ can mean not only ‘his wife’ but ‘his woman’ — and certainly I was that.
Now please join the line of Jim Morrison’s OTHER women, take a number and wait to be admitted.
I sort of wonder how this rather sweet French guy would have reacted if he knew that the wedding vows in question were not legal, that the two of them spent very little time together, and that Morrison spent most of his time with a different woman.
So why do I call this French guy sweet? Well, he and his friends are apparently fans of Morrison’s, so when they saw his naked unadorned grave, they tried to decorate it with the wooden cross, flowers and seashells. He seems happy at being praised, and also asks PKM to add the birth and death dates. This is actually the most moving part of the entire book, and it doesn’t even come from PKM herself.
But this unknown admirer did something for him not even his own longtime friends, who buried him, had seen the need of doing…
Has she emphasized enough yet how much they suck and should burn in hell?
So the guy leaves, and we’re suddenly transported back into a Persephone music video.
I kneel here as I am, unmoving, until the gritstone cuts through the thin black fabric of my dress and my knees bleed into the dirt; the long veil whips behind me in a wind that is so cold for July.
And now she’s even bleeding into his grave.
Seriously, the whole chapter is like this, right down to the hair.